Friday, June 1, 2007

Time to think purple

I am a refugee from 12 years of living in the Central Valley of California (Modesto and Bakersfield). I moved a year ago with my son to the burg of Petaluma, California. I think of Petaluma as Mayberry with an edge. The interesting thing is that the movie "American Grafitti" by George Lucas was set in Modesto but filmed in Petaluma.

The biggest contrast between the two is the political landscape and the air quality. Modesto is a Republican, very Christian conservative place. Petaluma is far more quirky will all sorts of progressives a diversity of religions. The air in Modesto is smoggy, some of the worst in the country. Petaluma has wonderful air quality. Modesto has experienced a major population growth with the advent of the dreaded, "BATS" aka Bay Area Transplants. Petaluma has seen growth but the biggest change has been a demographic shift with more black and brown people living in the community.

Both cities share something. The red vs blue challenge. Gangs and violence have been ever present in Modesto. With the concentration of methamphetamine and one of the highest per capita car theft rates, it can be a dicey place to live. Petaluma is experiencing similar growing pains with increasing gang activity. Several recent attacks of people wearing red shirts by alleged gang members. All sorts of community outcry about rising violence.

After living in a community where I had to have a "house that talked" (an elaborate home alarm system), I have had a bit of difficulty seeing the sudden upturn. Petaluma is a considerably safer place than Modesto but there is definitely an undercurrent of resentment and polarization.
Keeping "Petaluma eggscentric" (as in small cute shops instead of big box stores), the outcry about public drinking in the tiny toney downtown at night have been a rallying cry of many.
The other big deal is the "east vs west". The west side is the tonier and older side of town. The east side is newer. The west side has the cute little shops. The east side has the bigger chain stores. The west side is not very diverse. The east side had people from all over the world, with more diversity in ethnicity and language.

As a relatively new Petaluman, I feel the polarization. As an African American, I have felt some of the "eggscentric" attitude. Some people with a veneer of a smile and underlying hostility. Fortunately I have met more people who are embracing, inclusive and friendly.

I feel the need for my burg to come together. To think purple. Purple is a combination of red and blue. We have the need to stop the red vs blue, eggscentric vs big boxer, east side vs west side polarization. Get past the "fiction" of explosive growth rather a dramatic demographic shift.

Purple is the color of recovery, royalty and enlightenment. We need to remember that we are "all on the same team/ somos un grupo unido." More consensus building. More hope, peace and reconciliation.

Time to "think purple."